Secretarial Managers Networking Breakfast - Ambition

Secretarial Managers' Networking Breakfast - how firms recognise and reward talent

Published on 4th April 2019

Ambition's Business Support team recently held our second Secretarial Managers' networking breakfast event which was a huge success once again.

Over lots of coffee and a delicious breakfast, we discussed hot topics that are trending across professional services firms, such as recognising and retaining business support talent, how PAs add value, new technology, and flexible working. Here are some of the top takeaways from the morning.

How are firms recognising, retaining and rewarding Business Support talent?

This topic was very well timed as many of the managers that attended are currently in the midst of review time, so it was interesting to hear the difficulties some are currently facing and overcoming. We discussed the different reward systems firms have in place from discretionary bonuses, structures and promotions to softer rewards such as team breakfasts or vouchers for adding value to the team.

It was also interesting to discuss the level of expectations that exist and the sense of expectation around a promotion or bonus without doing the groundwork first.  It was a great opportunity to discuss how to measure competencies and set these clear objectives from the offset so that everyone is in line with expectations around rewards. 

How are PAs adding value - what does this look like from firm to firm?

When discussing this topic, one thing it really highlighted was that this can vary enormously between the internal teams.  One team's demands might be the norm in another, so it’s difficult to measure what 'outstanding' looks like firm-wide.

We then discussed how to best measure this firm-wide so that everyone holds a clear understanding of what 'value add' means to the firm, so this can be easily recognised.

New Technology – what are you using, what is working?

The Robots are coming…. 

This was a very interesting topic of discussion as it gave the Secretarial Managers the chance to hear from us how we find the market's perception on the different systems they have in place, which often is perceived as ‘are they trying to take our jobs?’

Everyone seemed to find this insight very interesting and our Associate Consultant Ashleigh, who previously worked as a Junior Legal PA, discussed her own experiences of using these systems and what did and didn’t work. 

It seemed that new technology around workflow and allocation is working better in bigger firms as it puts more structure in place and the fee earners can easily send their work to the correct specialists which is what the bigger firms tend to have.

In the smaller firms that do not have this structure in place, it is harder to implement this type of system so we all discussed tech that might help improve efficiency.

Flexible and Agile working

The ever-growing topic of flexibility. We actually discussed this topic in our last event in Q4 2018 and it seems that even from then more and more firms are open to offering some sort of flexibility.

The challenges of offering this to PAs does still remain the same but it does seem that some firms are making efforts to work around this and are finding that it's actually working better for them, as it brings the teams together and people are working smarter when in the office if they need flexibility.

Another point we covered is getting the partners on board and the biggest struggle sometimes is some businesses are afraid of setting a company standard and expectation, Some find that offering flexibility as an informal agreement rather than it being contracted seems to work best as the comfort levels of being able to change the agreement to suit business needs seems more palatable. 

We discussed what flexibility means from firm to firm and what is currently offered, and it seems to be that all are very open to some sort of flexible or agile way of working which is fantastic as its definitely the way the world is moving.

Thank you

Lastly, we would like to thank all the Secretarial Managers who attended our event again and to the new faces we had around the table . We appreciate how hectic schedules can be and we are delighted that the feedback has been positive and that everyone gained a lot from the discussions - we certainly did too!

We are so grateful that all attendees are open and transparent around information and idea sharing and we love being part of building this ever-growing network of inspirational leaders.

If you are a Secretarial Manager working in Professional Services and would be interested in attending our next event, do get in touch.